Civil Courts Deciding New Orleans Charter-School Segregation Issue

Civil lawsuits are as much a part of America’s charter school landscape as blackboards and parental ire, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is one of the latest battlegrounds. At issue is the Greater Grace Charter Academy a bit west of New Orleans that is 93 percent black enrollment, but where the population is only 62 percent black, according to the Associated Press.

In a report posted on the NOLA news website, the AP says that “… Louisiana’s education board approved the school’s charter and U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman allowed the opening last August. He noted the school has a non-discriminatory enrollment policy. He said blocking the opening would punish students who chose to enroll there. Opponents argue that approving a nearly one-race school ‘is contrary to the goals of desegregation.'”

Arguments are expected to be heard this month. Read the AP report here:
Charter school segregation lawsuit goes to U.S. appeals court

Golden State Settles Charter School Case, But For How Much?

That big civil case between California and the charter-school operator K12 has been settled for $168.2 million, the state’s attorney general says. But the company says that’s wrong by more than a hundred million dollars.

The Wall Street Journal backgrounds that the company is “… a remote-learning, charter-school operator that was accused of violating advertising and competition rules” and that “… the settlement also covered 14 nonprofit schools known as the California Virtual Academies, or CAVA schools, affiliated with K12. The company manages 15 nonprofit virtual charter schools throughout California serving about 13,000 K-12 students, the attorney general said in a press release announcing the settlement.”

But the WSJ also notes that “… K12 said in response that the attorney general’s office ‘mischaracterized’ the settlement and the company added that it has made no admission of wrongdoing. According to the Herndon, Va., company’s statement, the $168.5 million figure cited by California authorities was “flat wrong.” The company said that the settlement was only $2.5 million.” Says the firm: “… K12 will be making an $8.5 million payment to the state,” it said. “Of that amount, $6.0 million is to defray the cost to taxpayers of the Attorney General’s investigation, and $2.5M are settlement costs related to the separate private lawsuit alleging misreporting of attendance at the CAVA schools.”

Read the WSJ report here: California Reaches Settlement With K12 Over False Claims Allegations

Public School Must Pay $3 Million For Denying Space To Charter

Los Angeles Unified School District students Alexandria Marek, 8, right, and Kerala Seth, 4, left, protested the district's cuts to the high-profile Mandarin Immersion Program at Venice's Broadway Elementary school in March. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Unified School District students Alexandria Marek, 8, right, and Kerala Seth, 4, left, protested the district’s cuts to the high-profile Mandarin Immersion Program at Venice’s Broadway Elementary school in March. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles public schools have been ordered to pay $7.1 million to a San Fernando Valley charter school because the system failed to provide free classroom space, a violation of California law. As part of what amounts to one of the nation’s biggest charter school experiments, the Golden State requires public schools to help with charters, which are paid for with public funds but are managed independently. Litigation has been a byproduct.

The Los Angles Times reported that “… arbitrator John Zebrowski said that the district’s failure to comply with the law harmed children attending the charter during those [three] years because it forced the school to use some money intended for educational programs to lease a building. Zebrowski said students were further harmed because the building leased by the charter was inferior to what it would have received from L.A. Unified.”

Ivy Academia, with about 1,100 students, reportedly spent $3 million on rent and other costs from 2007-10, but the arbitrator said L.A. Unified should be on the hook for more money because he believed the property denied to the charter had a higher value. The LAT also noted that “the district must also pay the charter $650,000 in attorneys’ fees.”

Read the Times’ story here: Charter school awarded $7.1 million in case against LAUSD

California Columnist: Lawsuit Likely If Parent-Trigger School Index Nixed

Since its passage in 2010, California’s “parent trigger” charter school movement has been the subject of litigation, perhaps most notably in the landmark “Palm Lane Elementary School” case in Anaheim. The “trigger” laws allow parents to demand reform at failing schools, including converting the school to a charter school. The California move triggered a handful of other states to take up similar provisions.
 
Now, says Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, Golden State lawmakers are considering dropping one part of that parent trigger legislation, the so-called Academic Performance Index, or “API.” The standardized testing program was passed before the parent trigger, but was eventually linked to the controversial charter school efforts. Walters says removing the API will likely mean yet another lawsuit.

 

He writes that “… Gloria Romero, the former Democratic state senator who wrote the parent trigger law, says that if the API disappears, the Legislature should be duty-bound to provide a new performance measure for parents. However, the staff recommendation before the state school board is to eliminate the API and “identify the obsolete and outdated references to the API that need to be removed” as part of its repeal, implying that the parent trigger law should also die.”
 
If the API is repealed without a replacement measure for parent trigger, Romero tells Walters, a lawsuit would be the next step, which would not be unusual. He notes that “… school reform and civil rights groups have often sued, usually successfully, in their battles with the establishment over accountability and other flashpoint issues.”